Saturday, October 25, 2003

This is very interesting. The Cape Argus has reported that Cyril Ramaphosa is seriously considering a return to politics, which would make him a strong contender for the presidency in 2009. Apparently, his name has appeared on a provisional list of candidates for the Western Cape, and analysts suspect that he may be using his nomination as a 'kite-flying' exercise to see what kind of support he would be able to muster.

For those unacquainted with South African politics, Mandela favoured Ramaphosa as his successor, but Mbeki managed to out-manouver him for the presidency. Thereafter, Ramaphosa decided to concentrate on business, although he remained on the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC. Given some of Mbeki's stranger policies -- those relating to AIDS and Zimbabwe are most often cited -- many South Africans have been left wondering what might have been. Ramaphosa was the ANC's leading negotiator during the constitution drafting process, has enjoyed a successful career in business, and also seems able to inspire peoples' confidence. He remains extremely popular in the ANC (he garnered the second most votes in elections for the NEC at the ANC's Congress in Stellenbosch, after Trevor Manuel), although this support might well split once he re-enters the political arena.

If Ramaphosa does return to politics, and is seriously contemplating the presidency, this can only be a positive development. At the moment there is a real dearth of serious candidates to succeed Mbeki, which has led to what I hope is ill-informed speculation about Mbeki possibly amending the Constitution so as to allow for a third term. We should follow Mr Rhamaphosa's progress, and the response that it elicits from the ANC, with interest.

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